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Decolonizing the Collection

How does Mia work toward decolonizing the collection?

In the past as well as today, artworks have been taken from their original owners or physical contexts illicitly—through theft, as spoils of war, or by looting archaeological sites, for example—or purchased unethically through coercion, such as an implicit threat of violence or other hardship, and often in a colonial context. Art museums, including Mia, have benefited from these conditions.

Today, Mia researches the provenance of every potential acquisition extensively before proposing it to Mia’s board appointed Accessions Committee to avoid accessioning an artwork that has been illicitly or unethically removed from its owner, community, or archaeological context. To read more, please go to Building the Collection.

But museums, including Mia, have not always operated within these legal and ethical guidelines. For artworks that were acquired by our predecessors, we are in the process of researching their provenance and original contexts of collection, to fill in the gaps in our records over the last one hundred years. We work in good faith with individuals, nations, and countries who place claims on artworks currently in Mia’s collection. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible and to move toward the decolonization of museums by making thoughtful decisions based on the most accurate information.


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